Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Death to Smoochy (2002)

Death to Smoochy (2002)

Directed by: Danny DeVito  Rated: R   Runtime: 1 hr. 49 mins.  

Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures   Screenwriter: Adam Resnick

Cast:  Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart, Danny Woodburn

Every country has a form of children’s television shows that are loved and hated alike. In America, we had Lamb Chop, Blue’s Clues, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, The Bozo Show, and ugh….Barney, to name a few. Each of them garnered a lot of money from merchandise and events in their day. The performers/actors of each of these shows had to live within certain expectations too. They were the face of popular shows geared towards the youngest demographics, after all. (Yes, I know, Sesame Street is still on). It’s a satirical twist to those norms that Death to Smoochy comes from. 

That twist is totally believable! Greed is very much a part of any outlet that makes gobs of money. Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) is a foul-mouthed extortionist who headlines a popular children’s TV show in Death to Smoochy. His greed is his downfall. Leading the studio to replace him with Smoochy the Rhino (Edward Norton), a squeaky clean replacement who is ethically untouchable. 

Warner Bros. Trailer for ‘Death to Smoochy’ via YouTube

Robin Williams is a rut of an actor, which many people adore. Personally, I’d like to not think of Mrs. Doubtfire in my head while hearing him do his “voices” in this film at times, but I digress. Still, Williams gives a humorously outlandish and vulgar performance as Randolph, who tries to reclaim his status. In contrast, Norton’s take on Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy displays humor and wit, showing another side of his acting chops.

The film just dives right into the plot and continues in a way that no backstory is required. Thirty-seconds into the movie and you understand the setup and tone. 

The difference in tone and style between Randolph and Sheldon’s shows is a paradigm shift. Other greedy parties don’t appreciate when Sheldon/Smoochy become the new hit and take measures to get their slice of the action back. Those attempts parallel Randolph’s desire to dethrone Smoochy and get his time slot back. These outlets create tension and pace that moves the film along with dark humor along the way. 

Warner Bros. Pictures still of Robin Williams and Edward Norton in 2002’s ‘Death to Smoochy.’

There is an old clip on YouTube called “Rainbow” kids rude programme. I’m pretty sure it’s from the U.K. that was made and never aired, nor was it meant to be. Still, I wondered if somebody attached to this film saw it and got their inspiration for Death to Smoochy from it. Ideas for projects can come from bizarre places at times. 

In 2002 I saw Death to Smoochy when I was in college and remembered that I loved it, so I decided to watch it again for the first time in forever. I had to rent it from a streaming service, which is annoying when a film is this old. It cost $50 million to make and only earned around $8.3 million at the box office. It tanked! A-list casting can’t save every script, yet it got mixed reviews from those who saw it. Death to Smoochy was intentionally not marketed to any type of viewer demographic. 

Death to Smoochy is a dark comedy best watched, if at all, on one’s couch while working past a hangover. I liked it the first time around, and it was still watchable this time, but I laughed less. Maybe it’s me and my nostalgic moment, but I can’t recommend putting this movie on your watchlist as long as you have to pay to rent it. 

—a pen lady 

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club (1999)

Directed by: David Fincher Runtime: 2 hr. 19 min. Studio: 20th Century Fox Rated:

Screenwriter: Jim Uhls  Adapted from: Chuck Palahniuk’s book Fight Club 

Cast: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham-Carter, Meatloaf

Flight Club is a well-directed original packaging of nuanced, layered themes crafted with satire and dark-twisted humor. It’s wearing an electric blue tuxedo to a black and white ball. It looks good on the one wearing it, but it still rubs everyone else the wrong way. 

In 1999, when this film came out, it knocked on consumerism, corporate greed, and the smothering of the human spirit. Companies never want to be singled out for their hypocrisy and ruin the status quo. It’s ironic enough that this is a Hollywood movie with A-list actors delivering this message. Though Brad Pitt and Edward Norton laughed their way through the critic’s contempt of this film. 

Part of that contempt stemmed from the “glorification of violence” months after the Columbine shootings. The start of school shootings making the news in America. A few years later, 9-11 happened, in part, to protest the ways of Western cultures. Timing is everything, and I don’t know if there would ever be “a good year” to release this movie. This film can still be appreciated by a new modern audience because the message still applies. That point will make sense if you see the film, but you won’t understand it from the trailer. 

20th Century Fox Official Trailer for ‘Fight Club’

For a film trailer Flight Club’s is good and an absolute misrepresentation of what this film is. Usually, that occurs when a movie sucks, but this time it was because the studio didn’t know how to market it. Honestly, it’s like they didn’t try. Instead, they framed it as a macho film where mostly white people beat the crap out of one another, cause destruction, and in all that, something is a woman’s fault. Choosing to do that pissed off director David Fincher. But, there is only so much he can say about that, and the studios own choice to do that probably aided the dismal showing at the box office.

The themes embedded into this movie’s layers show why the characters throw punches; it’s not just for the hell of it. Fight Club is actually very intellectual sophisticated in how it sets up and shows you what it is. The Narrator (Edward Norton) befriends Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap maker, after his life goes sideways. Within that friendship, they create a flight club. The logic for its creation and what it later becomes is one factor that gives this move good pacing. Along the way, they get tangled up with the hot-mess that is Marla Singer (Helena Bonham-Carter). Each of their respective performances shows superb depth and commitment. They really get into their characters. Developing them with raw, vulgar, and dark honesty enables the cast to deliver amazingly memorable performances. 

20th Century Fox image for ‘Fight Club’

When the audience starts to put some things together about the characters, it highlights an undercurrent to Flight Club. Really a central question that most can’t honestly answer. Not, ‘am I trapped by consumerism’ or ‘bogged down by a job I hate,’ no. It highlights that everyone has a breaking point and when they get to that point, do they realize it? Tyler Durden (Pitt) says, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” Such a statement can be taken in many ways. Those who have experienced a significant loss or hit rock bottom from addition know this all too well. If you have nothing left to lose, where do you go? How do you go? It’s a critical distinction from the notion that this film was framed to support toxic masculinity and wanton violence. 

Flight Club is this humorously dark and twisted reminder that people go to extremes to be heard. That they don’t understand how stress affects their health and when they need help. It is a representation of Jack’s last nerve. 

I broke the first rule of Fight Club. I talked about it. Tough. In the years since its box office letdown Fight Club has become a cult classic. 

Fight Club is not for you if you are easily offended. If you like any of the actors in this film you should see it. If satire dark humor with action is your thing, you should see it. After seeing this movie for the first time in over 15 years, it was still worth watching again. I say any film that can do that is worth a spot on anyone’s watch list. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Promising Young Woman

Directed by: Emerald Fennell Runtime: 1 hr 53 min Rated:

Studio: Focus Features Screenwriters: Emerald Fennell

Promising Young Woman is creatively colorful as it is visceral in its exploration into double standards and accountability. Holding a light into the dark standards and practices of not just people but also institutions and their role in sexual abuse and rape. Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Cassandra is a revenge PSA (public service announcement) worthy of award nominations. 

Two lines in the trailer showing a heavily intoxicated Cassandra are:

“You know they put themselves in danger, girls like that.”

“You think you’d learn by that age, right?”

They are prime examples of the double standards and accountability this film is exploring. The existing culturally accepted norm that a girl or woman can be taken advantage of is her fault. 

Another set of lines are:

“I’m not the only one who didn’t believe it.” – Woman

“We get accusations like this all the time.” – Woman

These words coming from other women are equally disturbing because it highlights the denial and permission, by default, women give to men when women ignore or don’t speak up for others. Witnessing and staying silent helps no one, and Casandra is anything but silent in her mission to obliterate these accepted practices by so-called “nice guys.” 

Emerald Fennell and Carey Mulligan created and depict a beautifully crafted character with survivor guilt in Cassandra. In most movies, when a woman experiences this type of violence, it’s ignored, or a man gets revenge. It’s refreshing to see a woman take back control, even in the extreme. Cassandra going out at night like she does is dangerous. I’m not ignoring that. It’s also celebratory because it’s shown in a raw and honest manner with a pinch of humor. 

Promising Young Woman Official Trailer, Focus Features via YouTube

That humor, dark that it is, will not appeal to everyone. There were nine other people at the showing my theater had; five of those were men. A few women laughed a little; the men, unsurprisingly, did not. If anything, I was too loud when I laughed, and it had nothing to do with the empty theater. It just resonated with me, like it will for far too many. It’s not a film that only those who have survived rape will understand. This film is for the friends and family of such people. Those left behind after a suicide. The parents of every child. 

It’s an avenue into conversations about being a good person and what safe really means, and proper consent. Promising Young Woman really highlights the experiences women face in a centralized manner. It’s very to the point. Additionally, it shows how the process of acceptance and healing in the aftermath can take more time than many people are comfortable with. Cassandra’s parents don’t see it; they just see a 30-year old living at home.

Cassandra had been a medical student, that’s years of her life dedicated to a specific path. One event changed her course. She was a promising young woman full of potential, like many other women full of promising potential. I know it’s a movie review, but for context, in 2020, according to, there were 84,767 reported incidents of rape in the United States alone. So many, too many, are not reported each year. Al Monroe, played by Chris Lowell, says, “It’s every guy’s worst nightmare getting accused like that.” Cassandra replies, “Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?”  

This film will anger people, specifically males, and that’s okay. Mulligan’s take on Cassandra is bright, fun, twisted, raw, smart, and unapologetic. It’s hard to come up with an ending to a film topic like this, and Fennell doesn’t disappoint. This film should be on your watch list for sure. 

-a pen lady